Cross-Cultural Encounters and Creativity


"Melange…a bit of this and a bit of that is how newness enters the world.” Salman Rushdie (1991)

An exploration of cross-cultural interactions and the creation of visual images and objects in all media from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century, primarily in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific, but also in the Middle East, North Africa, the Americas and Asia, notably China, Korea, Japan and India. Both past and contemporary visual arts and culture are studied.

The course focuses on the meanings, values and uses of works in different sociocultural contexts. While most topics explore European (British, French, American, Pākehā) depictions of non-European people and places and encounters between people of different ethnicities, some address works, especially contemporary, by non-Europeans involving cross-cultural contact.

Historical subjects include depictions of Māori and Pacific Islands subjects, the works of Cook’s artists (eighteenth century), Orientalism, travelling and migrant artists and photographers. The artistic traffic between Europe and USA and Asia, especially China, Japan, India and Korea, from the eighteenth century to the present is a key concern. Modern and contemporary subjects include works by diverse artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Man Ray, Mona Hatoum, Shirin Neshat, Anish Kapoor, Peter Robinson (NZ), Gordon Bennett (Australia), Yasumasa Morimura, Kara Walker and Sigalit Landau. How contemporary photographers like Susan Meiselas, Alfredo Jaar and Donald McCullin have addressed war in Africa, Asia and the Americas is also a crucial subject.

Creative responses to exile and immigration emerge as compelling themes - for instance, picturings of and by peoples regarded as "alien" or “foreign” in various societies, and the work of refugee and immigrant artists from Europe, Asia and elsewhere in New Zealand and the Pacific region.

Other topics include depictions of “New World” landscapes, works both of and by Afro-Americans and Asian peoples in different societies and indigenous peoples’ adaptations of Euro-American images and artefacts. Besides fine arts and photography, cartoons, comics, touristic material and graffiti, plus film, architecture and the crafts come within the course’s scope.

Primary concerns: the uses and meanings of works both when first produced and decades later, how the same work can generate different meanings depending on the context of use, the ideas and  attitudes sustaining works, links between works and contemporaneous sociopolitical events (wars, colonial projects) and the resistance to them.

Are there events that are beyond representation? Can displacement and loss stimulate creativity? When does cross-cultural exchange and mixing become trans-ethnic and cosmopolitan?

To complete this course students must enrol in ARTHIST 703 A and B.

2020 is the last year in which this course will be taught.

Availability 2022

Not taught in 2022




ARTHIST 703A: 15 points

ARTHIST 703B: 15 points